Tuesday, September 29, 2015

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

This is the second book by this author that I have read. She is from Iowa, by the way, and some of the passages describe Iowa so accurately I feel we grew up together. This story is centered around two sisters, Allison and Brynn. Allison is the 'golden child' while Brynn is not so accomplished. The sisters are close. When Allison messes up she asks Brynn to help her. This is where the whole story gets complicated. I was surprised by plot twisters in the middle of the story and at the end. The author writes her books around traumatic experiences. When I read Little Mercies I felt all ended well. In this story however, if does not end up well for everyone. This probably is more true to life, but ends up leaving you feel bereft.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Swansong 1945 by Walter Kempowski

It is fitting with the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II occurring this year, the stirring work of Walter Kempowski, Swansong 1945, be translated into English and distributed for all to read. It is a powerful book composed of the thoughts, ideas and writings of people from around the world during the finals days of Hitler's Third Reich.
The vast majority of the book is made up of writings from people who found themselves actually in Germany in the late days of April and early May of 1945. The country was awash in the flotsam and jetsam of the chaos it had created when it took on what became the Second World War. Kempowski provides accounts from Americans, British, French, Russians, and primarily Germans as they describe the horror and destruction that are uncovered in the final days of the war in Europe.
There are accounts from soldiers, politicians, writers, prisoners of war and concentration camp survivors all woven together to give you a feel of the uncertainty the world was about to face with the close of the war.
The strength of this book is in its first-person accounts and its varying viewpoints from the participants. Many of us had read about the battles that comprised the end of the war, but we are not as familiar when the specific people themselves - Swansong 1945 takes us down that path.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot

This Civil War novel explores the horror that was Andersonville prison by concentrating on the stories of a few individuals: a prisoner, a guard, and the daughter of a local doctor.  Although the truly appalling conditions of the prison are not glossed over, the real focus of the novel is on individuals wrestling with their consciences, deciding (or not deciding) to act on their principles, and the consequences of their actions.